A story of real life at the Louvre museum in Paris mirrors the story of the top film ever made in France.
Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis is a film by director Dany Boon. It tells the tale of a postal services manager in Provence who is transferred to work in Bergues in the Nord-Pas de Calais. Having tried to wangle a dream posting at an office on the Mediterranean coast by posing as a disabled worker to enhance his chances – he is effectively punished with a posting to the north!
The Louvre Museum in Paris is said to be transferring thousands of works of art from its underground Paris storage site to the new Louvre in Lens, Nord-Pas de Calais to protect them from potential flood damage in the capital. But it’s not just the fabulous artworks that are going north, several of the staff at the Paris landmark site are to be transferring too – apparently much to their displeasure.
Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis translates roughly as “Welcome to the Sticks” since the southerners of France consider the Nord-Pas de Calais to be a cold place where it rains all the time and which is inhabited by unsophisticated locals who speak their own language – Ch’tis.
In the film our hero Phillipe the post office manager is gradually won over by the friendliness of the locals and the charm of the town and the region. He grows to love the smelly Maroilles cheese, a local speciality and the beers of the north instead of the wines of the south. The traditional way of life that is still held dear in the north wins his heart.
Having cried in despair on arrival he cries when he is later transferred back to the south fulfilling a Ch’tis proverb that visitors to the region “Cry twice – once on arrival and once on departure” because everyone, once they give it a chance, succumbs to the charms of this, one of the smallest regions of France.
So will the workers of the Louvre find it a similar experience when they arrive in Lens?
They will have the Lens RC football club on their doorstep. The people of Lens are passionate about their football and on match days the bars for miles around are full of people dressed in their team’s colours and singing colourful songs and everyone including the visiting team supporters are made to feel like friends.
They will have the slag heaps of Lens! The old coal mine heaps of waste that dominate the town have recently been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. The Parisians might be surprised to find grape vines growing on them!
Nearby the ancient and legendary Chateau of Chartreuse offers fabulous restaurants and the most beautiful hotel with gardens that can rival the best anywhere in France.
Lille is just 30 minutes away with its fabulous shops (more than 3900 of them), hundreds of bars and restaurants, wonderful architecture and fast train links to Paris Gare du Nord.
The beautiful Opal Coast much loved by artists and writers for many centuries may lure them on their days off to 80 miles of golden sands and Le Touquet “the Monaco of the north” one of the favourite bolt holes of Parisians and a secret gem.
And if its art they want – well they certainly won’t be disappointed with Nord-Pas de Calais which has more than 50 major museums and umpteen smaller local museums and where everyone seems to love art.
Workers of the Louvre going to the Nord – Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis!